The Apple Watch Series 3 was first released in September 2017, bringing fitness improvements and a faster processor. Nearly four years later, in 2021, Apple is still selling the Series 3 as its entry-level Apple Watch, starting at $ 199, saving $ 80 compared to the newer Apple Watch SE. Only, as I recently learned, “still selling” and “maintaining in a reasonable way” are two very different things, and the update of the Apple Watch Series 3 in 2021 is a nightmare of infuriating technology hoops to jump through.
Updating an Apple Watch is usually an annoyingly long but straightforward process: you charge your watch up to 50 percent, turn it on, and wait for the slow process of transferring and installing the update to your smartwatch.
But the non-cellular Apple Watch Series 3 has a small 8 GB of internal memory, much of which is taken up by the operating system and other critical software. So installing a major update ̵
- Remove the pairing and wipe the Apple Watch to the factory settings
- Reset Apple Watch and restore from backup
- Realize that you haven’t had to restore from your archive yet
- Watch an episode or two of Brooklyn nine or nine while you wait for the backup to complete the recovery
- Start from the first step again – but like a brand new Apple Watch, without recovery from an existing archive
- Update a completely fresh Apple Watch that already has enough free memory to update
- Think about how much you actually want to use this feature to unlock faces that all keep hippie in the first place
- Remove the pairing and wipe the Apple Watch a third time
- Restore from your archive and finally use normally
And the problem seems to apply regardless of whether you have installed a bunch of applications or not. Apple’s support website doesn’t even recommend Series 3 owners to worry about getting rid of space – it just recommends going straight to the aforementioned reset cycle.
It is clear that the current process is untenable.
I’m an editor at a technology news site, and I’m willing to devote a comic amount of time and energy to managing this, no matter how frustrating. But if you’re a more casual user, the same one who will probably have an older , outdated watch – why on earth would you worry about the worst update mechanism following GE’s instructions to reset a smart bulb? And the ability to update the software on your hardware is important: the recently launched watchOS 7.4.1, for example, eliminates a critical security flaw. But because it’s so hard to install, there’s a good chance many Series 3 owners won’t worry.
I know that Apple likes to ask for support for as many older hardware generations as possible with each new update. This is one of the biggest appeals of Apple’s products compared to the unclear pace of updates on competing Android phones (like the just-outdated Galaxy S8).
But the miserable update process for the Series 3 is a strong argument that Apple is too generous with what it considers “up-to-date” hardware. Maintaining the Series 3 for so long has always been a grab for money, a way for Apple to clean up old inventory and take advantage of mature manufacturing processes that have long since broken down, even to the liking of consumers who really can’t afford the extra $ 80 for the significantly better Apple Watch SE. This is a similar trend to the inexplicable Apple TV HD, which is almost six years old and costs only $ 30 less than the brand new 4K model. (Like Series 3, don’t buy a new Apple TV HD in 2021)
But hopefully with the announcement of watchOS 8 almost certainly around the corner from WWDC this June, the company is taking into account the core functionality of its hardware when considering what it does and doesn’t offer support. Because if Apple insists on selling such an old product in the future, it will have to be much more careful about how exactly it handles its software support.